It's a stream where EVERY spot looks like a likely spot.
The carp are easy to spot, but getting them to take is another story. Casting until they're annoyed seems to work. This is the headwaters of the tidal section of the stream (which runs another 40 miles non-tidal), and you can catch channel cats, striped bass(!!!), shad, carp, smallmouth, walleye, perch, red-breasted sunfish (FIGHT LIKE MAD), and many smallmouth in the same little stretch. I fished a stretch about .7 miles long yesterday, and worked it a couple times. Caught a couple of small stripers, lots of red-breasted sunfish (on a Clouser!),
smallmouth, and perch. I hooked a few carp, but couldn't land them. These are just plain old big carp, and it's like grabbing the reins of a rabid horse.
Here's the part of the stream section I fish. It just repeats that pattern for another mile, and then opens up to small river status. The water was high in this picture, and is MUCH lower right now.
The deal is, it's tidal; the fish move around quite a bit depending on the water level. The tide change is 6 feet further downstream, and around two feet where I fish. Rises are rare when the tide is in, but common when it's out. The larger fish lurk in the streams many deep (5-8 feet) channels, and behind the many large boulders strewn across the bottom. That's where the casting comes into play. These fish aren't moving from their comfort zone, and you have to cast to each underwater boulder, and there are zillions of microwave size boulders scattered across the bottom. They all look likely. I've caught fish at the top of riffles, middle, and bottom. I've seen really nice smallmouth 1 foot from the bank in inches of water, and looked over to the other side to see them at the bottom of a gin clear channel.
One mile downstream of the first picture:
This section sees a tide change of nearly 6 feet. While it's impossible to tell from a photo, the center of the stream is much more shallow than the edges here. Wading upstream during low tide is possible if you wade in the center, and fishing the pools on the edge can produce a number of really nice fish. If you know where the pools are, you can fish them without spooking the fish. The tide comes in quickly, however, and timing can save a swim. There are several shallow spots along the bank during low tide, but more often it's too deep even then. I almost found myself caught a few times in the past 5 years, but running upstream and climbing some tricky banks can save the day. The houses on the right look inviting, but water is always deep on that side. I do own a canoe, but have never used it there.....?????
After the third carp broke me off yesterday, I decided to call it quits. My knotted leader was down to about 7 feet, and I tied on a foam beetle. There's no point walking back upstream without a fly on the line, even if I'm too tired to cast. I caught a few little sunfish as I made my way back up to where I cross the stream, and stopped near a few Buick size boulders for a pool next to stretch of riffles. It occured to me, that if I were a smallmouth, I'd be resting in the corner of this nearly square pool. Having seen baitfish being chased against the rocks the day before helped form that opinion, and I made one last cast. I was rewarded with this guy:
Casting mechanics were brought up when I was showing the spin fisherman how to make a basic cast, and I told him to let the rod do the work. He kept raising his rod arm to straighten his elbow, and I told him to pretend he was holding a book against his body (you guys know the routine). Because of my shoulder, I try to let the rod do as much work as possible. The roll cast to un-snag the Clousers made my elbow pain flare up, and undoubtedly played a role in the hand pain. I was using a 9 foot rod, and I'm much more comfortable with 8 1/2' rods. The problem is, my shorter rods don't throw heavy streamers into the wind, and at distances like the longer rod. It can be done, but I wanted all the firepower possible: this stream has been red hot for two months!
I prefer smaller grips, and actually slide my hand up to the winding check at one point for relief. While the Z-Axis grip is not large, it's larger than the ZXL. The latter is perfect for my large hands, and I spent last summer casting Clousers with an 8 1/2' 4wt ZXL. I switched back to the Z-Axis this year because I couldn't turn the 16-18 inch smallmouth in currents, and kept thinking of A.K. Best's comments about "rod abuse". While my wife caught two large channel catfish with that rod last year, it would have been worthless against the carp I've been targeting.
Prospecting for Fish:
I don't think anything has helped my fishing more than Tom Rosenbauer's book Prospecting for Trout
. It's a great book to read for any freshwater species, at least the species I fish for. Ard has mentioned observing a stream before approaching several times, and this has netted me many fish that I would have stepped on in the past. Seeing a few 16 inch smallmouth slowly swim away as you enter a stream should make anyone look prefer leaping. I have to admit that I spooked many smallmouth on my way to the carp yesterday, but I wasn't after smallmouth at the moment.